Bruno & George Winery is located in Sour Lake and is owned by Shawn and Misha Bruno. The winery was bonded in 2000 and opened in 2001 ready to sell its wines. At this time the winery was the 42nd winery in Texas.
There is a very interesting and detailed story about the history of Bruno wines on their website so instead of retelling the story here, let me just summarize it. Raisin wine was made in Sicily by Shawn Bruno’s grandfather and in 1996, Shawn and Misha learned how to make the family wine from Shawn’s uncles Joe and Nick. After they decided to make a business from raisin wine, they quickly learned there was an old statute on the books in Texas which stated it was illegal to make and market wine made from dried fruit or raisins.
This would stop any business plan but Shawn, with the help of his brother, was eventually able to change the Texas law in 1999 which removed the dried grapes, dried fruit, and dried berries from the list of prohibited items to use. At that time Governor George W. Bush signed it into law and today the signed act is hanging in the Bruno & George tasting room.
Not to be outdone, in 2005 Bruno & George changed Federal Liquor law by lobbying successfully to add a new category for “Dessert Raisin” which allows raisin wine above 14% alcohol by volume to be manufactured and sold in the United States. Note this didn’t affect just Texas, this allowed every winery in the United States to make dessert Raisin wine! The letter notifying Shawn Bruno of this is also in the tasting room.
As you can tell, Bruno & George Winery’s signature wine is what they call “Other than Standard Raisin Wine.” After reading these stories, I had to visit Bruno & George to taste the Raisin wine.
Unfortunately being a boutique winery, Bruno & George Winery is not always open for tastings so you have to make an appointment with Shawn. I tried around Christmas time when I was on vacation but we never were able to set up a time since they had become very busy at that point when a reporter had covered the winery and everybody wanted Bruno & George wine. I had another chance in the summer and this time I was successful.
I arrived at the winery and was met by Shawn Bruno. It turned out I was the only appointment for the day so we had the place to ourselves. Shawn first gave me a tour of the grounds with the outdoor pavilion where they hold parties, weddings, birthdays, and events such as fencing and bicycle, motorcycle, and Corvette rallies. The winery and grounds can be rented out for special events.
We then went into the production facility where Shawn showed me where he makes all the wine. Today they produce around 1,700 cases of wine a year.
It was a hot day and I was ready to taste some wine. We went into the tasting room and Shawn got me started on a tasting. You sit at the tasting bar where the bottles are uncorked and the tastings are poured from the bottle. There is a tasting fee for all ten wines they offer. Cheese crackers are available for cleansing your palate.
Bruno & George Winery produces all fruit wines except for one wine which is made from California grapes. The fruit they use comes from wherever they can get it such as California, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.
Since the wine I had come to try, the Raisin wine, is a dessert wine with 16.2% alcohol, I knew it would be coming near the end of the tasting list.
This is the list of wines I tasted:
- Candlelight Strawberry
- White Orchard Pear
- Signature Peach
- Holiday Blueberry
- Arapaho Blackberry
- Yellowjacket Raspberry
- Cardinal Cranberry
- Salvatore’s Red Plum
- Three Rivers Red
- OTS Raisin
Shawn said their biggest sellers though are the Cranberry, Blackberry, and Strawberry wines. All were chilled except for the Blueberry, Three Rivers Red (the grape wine), and the Raisin wine. Shawn was a pleasure to talk to during the tasting and had a wealth of knowledge to share. During the tasting he commented how people when drinking grape wines, try to detect aromas such as pear, but when you smell his wines, you actually are perceiving the aromas of what you’ll be tasting.
Shawn kept mentioning Bruno wines during the tasting so I had to ask, what about “George?” He said the Georges were former partners but he took sole ownership in 2005, so now all the wines are part of the Bruno Collection. Bruno wines have won many awards over the years in competitions for their wines.
We reached the Three Rivers Red wine which is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Shawn said people had been asking him for years to make a grape wine and he experimented in 2010 and first offered Three Rivers Red for sale in 2011. The success of the wine might create a desire to make more grape wines, but he will never forget his fruit wines.
We had now reached the “Other than Standard Raisin Wine.” I learned the raisins come from California and Shawn brought out brandy glasses to taste the Raisin wine. I haven’t had a wine before in a brandy glass but it did seem appropriate. We both tasted the Raisin wine together and from the look on my face, Shawn said, “See, I can make Raisin wine.” Yes indeed Shawn, you can. We talked some more and somehow my glass got empty so I needed a little refill.
It had been a wonderful tasting at Bruno & George. Gloria and I first saw Bruno & George Winery at a wine festival a couple years ago and Shawn said they will be going to the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival located in Bryan in September. I look forward to seeing them there.
I would recommend if you get the chance, take the opportunity to make an appointment with Shawn for a tasting at Bruno & George Winery.